Sometimes in church or faith gatherings, I notice that people avert their eyes away from me or others, and it really bothers me.
I was sitting with some young adults a few months back and they noticed the same thing. One girl said to me, “There are people who I see at these gatherings who I speak to once and then see again and they act like they don’t even know me.”
In my experience like this young woman, oftentimes, there’s no reason for it that I can think of -- there is no conflict, no tension, no disagreement, nothing wrong in the relationship. It’s just people being avoidant.
Why do we do this?
Maybe they fear connection or community. Maybe they are self-conscious. Maybe they don't want to be your friend or appear too friendly. Who knows. But here's what it feels like: rejection and diminishment.
To feel rejected and diminished in the Catholic Church, I believe, is one of the worst feelings someone can have. When we contribute to those feelings with averted eyes, we aren’t nurturing a sense of belonging in our Church. I wonder how many people don’t come back to a church or faith group because of this experience.
Maybe we need to go back to the basics of evangelism: Basic respect for and eye contact with the person in front of us.
Let’s stop averting our eyes and let’s be the Lord’s loving gaze to each other.